Posts Tagged ‘online news’

It’s been a very intriguing 24 hours for anyone with a passing interest in indigenous politics in this land we call Australia. The 40th anniversary of the tent embassy in Canberra (on Australia/Invasion/Survival Day) was attended by a number of people who vocally approached the PM and Opposition Leader after the latter made some insensitive remarks about ‘moving on’.  Abbott figured that because Aboriginal people obviously have it so good now –  only making up quarter of the prison population, dying only a few years younger than everyone else, suffering, well, much higher rates of trachoma, that sort of thing – that calling an end to this form of protest is warranted. Well, that’s obviously how they saw it.

The event highlighted the vast, vast majority of the national media ready to brand the altercation ‘violent’ (although there was limited evidence for this) and, of course, unacceptable – particularly on Australia Day, Channel Seven’s David Koch usefully pointed out. From the tabloids on the right to the ABC and Fairfax opinion pieces, everyone was having a go at the fact some people banged on the window of the restaurant the PM was in, forcing her security detail to drag her out of there.  Falluja it was not.

But all of that reaction is predictable. What was most interesting is what seemed like the disbelief amongst many media commentators that there could be more than one viewpoint amongst indigenous Australians. Establishment figures Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda were wheeled out to denounce in pretty strong terms what happened – thank goodness! – and maybe a lot of people felt a bit better. But what a shock that black politics might have a Left and a Right as well as anyone else’s. You can be outraged all you like, but please don’t act surprised. So perhaps it was a watershed moment – but only because something finally clicked in a few non-indigenous heads.

Anyway, I wrapped up some of the early reaction in a formulaic but hopefully balanced package today, above.

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Amusing as they might be, attacks on the websites of supporters of tougher copyright legislation could tarnish the legitimate protests of Wikipedia and others.

“TANGO DOWN #Megaupload  Fight for Internet Freedom!” went the tweet from the LulzSecITALY account, and it was like the heady days of last year when the hacking group had every newsroom around the world wondering which organisation’s website was to go down next.

Read the rest of this post @SBS.

Since independence, Nigeria has been a fractured country. Multiple ethnicities and languages, and a sharp divide between Muslim and Christian majorities in the north and south. Not to mention plenty of corruption, oil to argue over, dealing with the IMF….yadda yadda. I don’t profess to have ever visited, but I find the whole situation pretty interesting. So with petrol price riots (seemingly?) combining with sectarian violence (Boko Haram in the north, and what appears to be knock-on attacks on mosques and other Muslim targets in the south), I banged out some features for SBS today. First an LVO (unfortunately requiring a little more file footage than was ideal; the agencies had filed very little when we wanted it up by the lunchtime rush), then an attempt at mapping the main events since the start of the year. 

Below, a good old Google Map with an attempt at rounding up what’s happened where since New Year’s Day. Let’s hope this ends well for Nigerians. 

Here’s a news inspired Google map of the political unrest in the Arab world.

A few weeks back, Australia was inundated by severe flooding in many different areas. This was a busy time for us at SBS news. To best tell the story, I was updating a Google map each day – first ‘Queensland Floods’, and then spreading to incorporate northern NSW and Victoria. It turns out, people LOVE this kind of visual storytelling. I was aware of them as a useful tool, but the article it was embedded in has done amazingly well for us as a news site, and exceeded all expectations. Amazingly well.

As such, I came up with another on due to the ongoing civil unrest in the Arab world. First in Tunisia (as we were quick to publish at SBS, leading in to a special coverage minisite with updates from Brian Thomson in Cairo backing up agency copy), then of course notably in Egypt, but also elsewhere in the region. Publishing online news articles on a protest in Egypt or a self-immolation in Mauritania can only go so far in telling the story, so visuals do the job well. Some would say viewers are lazy. There’s probably an argument here, but if they inform people, so be it. This one has particular resonance for me as my partner and I are heading to Syria and probably Lebanon in just a few weeks. Naturally, and for entirely selfish reasons, we are hoping that the Syrians might put up with decades of oppression and censorship until our holiday is through. This, I feel,  would be considerate. And so I have a careful eye on developments in the region. So, it turns out, do readers of SBS World News Australia online.

This ‘news map’ has also done pretty darn well. News, though, online or elsewhere, is always newsier for people, let’s say, if it is in their backyard, and the Queensland flood map smashed it in terms of clicks. Either way, I’m sure we will be doing a few more of these.

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It’s been called the beige election.

The K-Mart election, for its array of pick and choose policies.

Renowned historian Niall Ferguson told Radio National that  the bickering and petulance reminded him of council politics in Scotland.

So what’s wrong with Gillard v Abbott 2010?

Is it a lack of leadership?

By almost all accounts, this is an election short on major themes. The kind of narratives that grab you by the lapels and demand you to get off your (mortgage-belt?) picket fence.

2007 was surely what they call a ‘change’ election. More of the suffocating conservatism that had held sway for over a decade, or Kevin Rudd’s brand of progress?

In the other Anglo-Saxon dominated democracies we so often look to for inspiration, the UK’s last election was a thriller. As for the US, well, no hyperbole here, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone totally disinterested in that one.

But in this election, the defining feature so far is the mud that is being slung. And it is being slung relentlessly. Particularly, it has to be said, by the Coalition.  There’s a perfectly good reason for that. The lack of cohesion in the Labor camp is, to say the very least, highly unusual. Abbott could be on to a winner.

To say that Gillard has been presented with hurdles is an understatement. The shadow of Rudd, not to mention Mark Latham, perhaps the most bitter politician in the country, are obstacles that the Coalition is more than happy to talk about.

This is because, according to some commentators, partisan, and less partisan, they are low on policies. We’re told this is a boring election. A ruthless (foolish?) Labor machine held hostage by dark union forces, up against a Coalition with a leader who snuck into the job by one vote, in order to get rid of a man who wanted Labor’s emissions trading scheme enacted.

With the political execution of Kevin Rudd (ignoring the tragi-comic resurrection), and the fall of Malcolm Turnbull, we were denied an election which surely would have had more of an eye on the macro than the micro. But maybe I’m kidding myself.

It is to see a man who has called himself John Howard’s ideological offspring leading in the polls, three years after Howard-era politics was said to be dead and buried.

As such, Abbott and his minders are keeping a fair bit under wraps. Part of the charm, for want of a better term, of Tony Abbott, was always his forthrightness. His ‘fair dinkumness’, perhaps. He is likely to the right of most Australians on a range of issues. We’ve known this for a while. And it is in Labor’s interest to highlight this, but at the moment, they don’t look to be doing to good a job of it, so entrenched as they currently are in their own civil strife.

When it comes to policies, it’s perhaps easier for the incumbent to present, in a timely fashion, policies to the electorate before the election date. And the Coalition has been slow bringing policies on a number of issues to the table.

The election was branded ‘beige’ due to an apparent lack substance, and little differentiation, between the major parties. No policies on the things that mattered, apparently.

But is it true? The fact of the matter is that despite the fact that issues which, according to pollsters, people want discussed missing from the agenca- and the elephant in the room is of course climate change – the media and the campaign trails are almost one.

And so there is a lack of questioning.

Seen through the media, a modern Australian election is a cacophony of gaffes, leaks, sloganeering, polarised personalities, he-said she-said tit for tat, and photo opportunities. Just count the baby-hugs.

Of course, the commercial networks and tabloid newspapers play their part. But, unfortunately, the ‘quality’ papers (shrinking in number, and quality) and state-funded broadcasters are at the same game.

In an interesting post, Laura Tingle goes someway to outlining how this happened throughout the nineties.

Politics, not policy, now rule in Canberra, she points out.

In particular, the media has become fascinated with the Kevin Rudd issue. Watching the Canberra press pack on the campaign trail, it is hard not, in some strange way, to feel sorry for the actual politicians.  They come with their new policy, focus-grouped to the teeth to swing those swing voters in those swing seats into their grasp, and the journalist wants to know about Kevin Rudd. Why Abbott won’t debate Gillard for a second time. Why Abbott used the term ‘no means no.’  About Gillard being an atheist. Whether Mark Latham is annoying the hell out of Gillard. And it goes on.

This is partly down to the fact that the big-dog journalists are often not on the trail.

These older guys are more experienced in combing through policy documents, looking at the detail and running costings themselves.

But they’re also, it has to be said, given more of the freedom and liberty to get away from the constant churn and sit down and read the pages of announcements and detail that pour into any journalists email account during a campaign.  I’ve tried to read what I think are the major announcements – but leave your desk for twenty minutes and you’re inundated on your return.

There are policies coming out on a daily basis, and they’re hardly being tested when there is the chance at the press conference, where there is also the chance to ask about the issues which are not even being debated.

As well as climate change, there is the question as to whether we want to remain, and grow in our role as, the world’s quarry. Surely we cannot be serious about acting on climate change when we do not consider the coal that we sell to be burnt overseas as something we’re responsible for?

There is a war in Afghanistan which Australia troops are dying in, but the term ‘Afghan’ only makes the agenda when it is a refugee fleeing that same war. There is a looming agricultural challenge over whether to lease fertile Australian land to overseas companies, which the Nationals are keen on discussing but, one can be fairly sure, won’t become a big issue in the next fortnight.  There is a potential to join an Asian trade bloc, to actually consider where we want to look, and be, in an increasingly globalised world.  There is a debate over population growth focusing on relatively small amounts of arrivals by boat, but barely any mention about Australia’s ailing transport network, beset in the cities by chronic overcrowding, and, if the Greens are to be believed, held back at the interstate level due to the interests of the trucking lobby. There are pledges of money for the tourism industry, made on the Barrier Reef, but no action on what we are doing to destroy the reef with silting, and of course, rising sea temperatures. If it aint there, tourists won’t come.  And closing the gap with indigenous Australians? Ha! 2007 seems like decades ago.

All of these issues come down to where Australia wants to be in twenty, thirty, forty years time.

But strangely, parents have been targeted in this election. Families, and communities, those two old catchphrases. The cynics say (that would be us journalists) that this is to convince the breeders in the mortgage belt (disclaimer – I’m a parent, but mortgage-free) that $500 here or there means one major party is better than the other.

But surely parents of all people have an eye on what they would like this still-fairly lucky country to be like in forty years time?

There is no doubting that to get there, to get anywhere, we need leaders.

Rudd seemed to have an idea. Little Johnny too. But it’s hard to know what the real Julia and Tony want. If she’s a puppet, and he’s been gagged, we’re not going to find out.

Sadly, this election has shown a failure of leadership in the mainstream media, as much as from the leaders of the main political parties.

Take it as a devastating critique of democracy.

In 2010, our leaders are failing us,

We’ve launched our federal election portal at SBS -Vote 2010-  mostly a World News Australia affair with some input from other departments.

As such, we’ve been working on getting small packages for online news up, condensing the morning’s campaign by early afternoon.

I’ve written and cut a few this week such as the ‘Red Faces’ package and the climate troubles piece here, and we’ll be trying to get one out each weekday for the duration of the Australian federal election.

It’s been a help using the new quantel system with pre-ingested material – all part of SBS’s shift to digital, and a real help with the speed needed for online news. Final Cut Pro is naturally a better editing tool – but the integration with raw footage is not to be sniffed at.

Turns out quantel has a few nice features of its own, anyway.

As the onus is on speed – along with accuracy and journalistic integrity, to be sure – some of the cuts in these packages are less than perfect.

But with several hours less than our TV counterparts to wrap proceedings up in, we think it’s a fine job we’re doing.

Media convergence at its finest should be on show this Sunday night for comprehensive online coverage of the leadership debate.

Bring on the polls.

I haven’t blogged for a while, and that’s basically as I’ve been pretty bloody busy.

Baby Frankie busy, parent visiting from overseas busy, trying to enjoy life busy and working plenty for SBS busy.

The latter has me working on a new ministe for the SBS News website, which will explore Australian mining over the coming decades. It’s sexier than it sounds. I’m particularly interested in the concepts of peak metals as well as rare earth metals – two distinct issues to be sure, but for a country where mining is in the DNA (well, we all know that sort of talk is horse shit, but we/they do love to dig shit out of the ground and flog it), it seems that mining – other than the coal and the iron ore topic- is remarkably under discussed and debated.

So, my EP and editor at SBS News online bought the pitch and I’ve been working on a couple of news packages and a host of articles, which should begin to go live next week. So nice to be doing proper journalism from scratch, with weeks to consider arguments.

But what to call the minisite? Peak Metals? Nope, It’s not just about that….Resources Futures? Nah, It’s mostly about metal (do I add non-metal pieces to let me use that title?….Heavy Metals? Would love to, but for many of these rare earth metals used in high-tech applications they’re anything but that. Think think think…